General Purpose, Questions, and Sample
The topic of the spring 2004 survey was suggested by alumna Patricia
Forts, a sociology major from the class of '81, and her husband Jeff,
a political science major also from the class of '81. In a Presidential
election year, with interest in politics heightened by the primaries,
it was timely to focus the spring 2004 HCSS on politics and current
issues. Like many of the other HCSS topics, there is much speculation
about and anecdotal evidence regarding the political views and engagement
of college students. Yet, once again, surprisingly little systematic
empirical evidence is available.
Specifically, the spring 2004 survey asked students about the following:
- Political participation, such as registering to vote and campaigning
for candidates for political office.
- Knowledge of home state governor and home district Congressional
- Political orientation and political party preference.
- Parents' party preference and interest in politics.
- Students' interest in politics and public affairs.
- Trust in government and satisfaction with the direction of the country
and current economic conditions.
- Interest in and candidate preference in the 2004 Presidential election.
- Opinions on current issues, including the war in Iraq, abortion,
gay marriage, and capital punishment.
- Feelings toward different groups in American society, such as liberals,
conservatives, the military, the police, and feminists.
- Involvement in student government.
The bulk of the questions on political participation and interest were
drawn from the National Election Study (NES), which conducts biennial
surveys of the American electorate. Questions on current issues were
drawn from the GSS or modeled after items used by Gallup and other polling
The survey was launched on March 15, and all but three interviews were
carried out between March 21 and April 20. A sample of 220 respondents
was randomly selected from the 2,592 Holy Cross students enrolled and
on campus as of March 2004. The population thus excluded students who
were studying away or abroad or who had taken a leave of absence. A
total of 195 interviews were completed, yielding an 89 percent response
rate and a margin of sampling error of about 7.2 percent.
Among the 195 respondents, 53 percent were female, 82 percent were white,
95 percent ranged in age from 18 to 22 years old, and 77 percent identified
themselves as Catholics. Eighty-eight percent of the respondents lived
on campus. By academic class, 25.6 percent were first-year students,
25.6 percent second-year, 19.0 percent third-year, and 29.7 percent
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